appalachian ohio

Appalachian Gothic

- There is an opera house in the town over. There is an opera house in the town next to that. You volunteer to help fix up yet another opera house. Where did all these opera houses come from. You have never seen a single opera.

- A herd of deer grazes in a graveyard. They are missing some ears and legs and eyes. What are they really eating.

- Your friend lives in the middle of nowhere. Your other friend lives in the middle of nowhere. No, a different middle of nowhere. Their friend lives in the middle of nowhere. No, a different middle of nowhere. How is there so much nowhere.

- This pond is too small for anything but small fish and newts. Isn’t it?

- The trailer park next to the high school has been empty for years but it was still always there. No one lived there. Maybe someone lived there. One day on the bus to school your sister realizes that the trailers are all gone and no one knows where they went.

- You drive through an abandoned mining town that isn’t on any map. You know that you have trespassed. You don’t know how to get back. You don’t know how to make things right.

- There are bricks everywhere. There are star bricks, town bricks, unremarkable bricks, old bricks, new bricks, glazed bricks, bricks spelling out ancient secrets you never wanted to know.

- The tuberculosis ward on the hill has finally been torn down. The authorities say asbestos. The locals say ghosts. You find a bit of pink rubble that calls to you as you hike on the hill. It follows you home to the other pieces you can’t remember picking up.

- The trains only come at night. The trains only come at night. The trains only come at night.

- A ground hog lives in the rundown house next door. A ground hog lives in the rundown house half a block away. The house across the street falls into disrepair and a ground hog moves in. You do not know if maybe you should bring them something to welcome them to the neighborhood, to ensure that your home will no be next.

oh, so my supervisor (who’s from California), likes to point out how midwest/Ohio is different, and today he noticed that we drop “to be” from our sentances.

ex: I asked my coworker, “Oh is your computer working now?  Or does it still need fixed?”

And that sounds and looks cromulent to me, however to his Californian ears, it was one of those “You people…. “ moments and he had to bring it to our attention lol

and I’m like, well… I’m pretty sure they do that in southern states, but I guess it’s an Ohio/Midwest/Appalachian thing??  idk it sounds fine to me


Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church

Located at Ohio’s southernmost point, the community of Burlington saw large numbers of both runaway and freed slaves during the decades before the Civil War. Around 1811 a small group of Baptists settled here and founded a small primitive church. In late 1849 a Virginia landowner named James Twyman freed many of his slaves at the time of his death and provided land for them near Burlington, Ohio. Forty-six former slaves settled near the church on land that they now officially owned. After joining the existing Baptist congregation they helped build a replacement church on Macedonia Ridge, from which the they took it’s name of “Macedonia Missionary Baptist Church”. The then newly built church is believed to be the first African-American established church in the state of Ohio. Among various other things, the congregation was also involved in assisting other slaves during era of the Underground Railroad. Qualifying both because of being historically significant in local history and architecture, the church was added to the National Register of Historic Places in February of 1978. The above photos were taken in spring of 2013, as the church sits now all of the windows are boarded up and the front door is sealed shut after strings of vandalism on the somewhat secluded property. A July 2016 local newspaper article states that a Lawrence County native named Calvin Vincent is currently seeking grants to restore the building and turn it into a museum.


Buckeye Ordnance Works (Pt. 1)

Constructed in early 1942, the Buckeye Ordnance Works Plant was built to make hydrogen ammonia for military explosives. As a result the city of South Point, Ohio and nearby Ironton were placed in the Industrial Defense Zone. Operations began in 1943 and after the end of World War II, Allied Chemical Corporation bought the plant in 1946 converting it to producing chemical fertilizer. The plant continued as a major employer for the region until a drastic cutback in 1968 reduced the 1,300+ employee complex to just a 200 person operation producing various chemicals such as ammonia, nitrogen fertilizer, and formaldehyde until 1978.

In 1979 the abandoned plant was sold to Ashland Oil Inc. who began demolition of the majority of the existing structures. Through a partnership with other corporations, they developed an ethanol processing plant that made alcohol from corn to be used as a gasoline additive under the corporate name South Point Ethanol and continued operations until 1995. In 2000, Biomass Energy LLC acquired the South Point site with the plan for an operation of burning wood waste to generate electricity. It all seemed promising but was immediately shut down as soon as it opened due to numerous EPA violations. In December 2002, the U.S. Department of Agriculture agreed to pay Biomass $2.33 million to destroy 121,000 tons of surplus tobacco. During the spring of 2003, more than 10,000 tons of tobacco in cardboard boxes were shipped to the South Point location before they were stopped. South Point Mayor Bill Gaskin at the time commented that he didn’t think the plant even had a working furnace and they were just storing the tobacco in a large building and even had piles just out in a field. The Ohio EPA inspected the site in March of 2003 and alongside the tobacco piles, discovered 35,000 tons of coal and coke waste.

Over the years that followed several citations and lawsuits have been filed concerning the improper on site storage of tobacco, coal, and coke waste. Along with blatant disregard for environmental laws, South Point Biomass has had a rocky road with paying property taxes on the 80 acre plot. At one time the company owed more than $100,000 in back taxes, which was only paid when the county put public pressure on the company and it’s CEO Mark Harris. 

During the past few years parts of the plant have had the demolition process started and then halted immediately due to yet even more EPA violations, this time concerning the proper removal of asbestos. Citations were issued by the Portsmouth Local Air Agency, which oversees air quality issues on behalf of the Ohio EPA. The complaint alleges that in October 2013, buildings at the now long abandoned ethanol plant had contained asbestos, and the owners, without notifying the Ohio EPA as required by law, improperly handled and disposed of it while demolishing some of the equipment. As of September 2015, South Point Biomass has yet to fulfill court ordered obligations regarding proper clean up of the site and currently owes $16,000 in back taxes to Lawrence County.


Buster’s Bi-Lo

Many years ago while randomly driving around southern Ohio I couldn’t help but notice that there were a lot of abandoned gas stations. Just about every single one had the same sign standing out front that read “Buster’s Bi-Lo”. According to a 2006 local newspaper article, the stations are owned by a guy named Delmer Hicks who owns about 50 locations throughout Ohio, West Virginia, and Kentucky with some of them being stations that still offered full service. A few stations were closed in an attempt to negotiate lower gas prices with the oil companies. Needless to say it was a fight he did not win. Some locations were shut down briefly for that reason and some to install new pumps because the older units that were in use would not recognize prices above $3/gal. I’m not sure if any of the locations I’ve come across were ever reopened as they appear to still have older style pumps. “I guess I’m just old fashioned, but I really wanted to keep it so the prices could be affordable” Hicks told the newspaper. 

The above photos are from the Coal Grove, Ohio location taken last summer and the Wheelersburg, Ohio location taken last winter.